Weeknote w/c 29 July: time for a pause

The Customer Services board gets started

On Monday we had the first meeting of our new Member led Customer Services board. As I mentioned last week, this is an exciting opportunity for us to bring together work across the Council and deliver further improvements to the services we provide for our residents.

For the first meeting we had planned to do some thinking about what we mean by great customer services and explore that in more depth with the Cabinet Members and other senior leaders in the group. I was a bit nervous about this because while Matthew had done most of the ground work and had designed the session (and I think he’s better at that than I am), diaries meant that the meeting took place while he was on leave so I took on the facilitation role. In groups like this I’m naturally more comfortable discussing my thoughts, rather than facilitating the discussion itself, but Matthew had done lots of prep for the meeting (including running through the workshop design with me so I was well prepared) which helped me feel more confident in what I needed to do.

I was really pleased with the discussion. Everyone was well engaged and I could see the benefit of the pre-meets that Matthew held with everyone over the previous weeks. There was a real appetite to think beyond ‘channel shift’ and look at ways that we could redesign services to make things simpler and more accessible for residents.

We’ve agreed that we’ll follow up next month by looking at some areas where we might focus to explore what could be possible as experiments to help us explore user needs and test out new thinking.

A year (and a bit) on from GDPR

Wednesday’s meeting of our quarterly Information Governance Group included a recap on the work we’ve been doing across the Council to respond to the General Data Protection Regulation which came into effect last May. It felt appropriate to mark Sarah’s last IGG meeting before she moves to Barts Health by reflecting on lots of really positive progress and clear plans for future work. I was particularly pleased to hear another senior manager remark that Hackney’s GDPR work has felt calm and purposeful – a real endorsement for the hard work that the team have done to make sure that we approach GDPR as an opportunity to strengthen our information management practices, not just a compliance burden.

Other highlights from last week were:

  • I had a couple of useful calls with colleagues at other councils. The first was a good opportunity to compare notes on how we can unlock ourselves from vendor dependency (or whether there are some circumstances where that might be too tricky). In my view it’s important that we take this challenge on, but it’s also important to be honest about where it’s hard to do. And the second call was an initial conversation about opportunities for the other council to share the work we’ve been doing for housing services. That was very encouraging and we’ll be following that up to see how we might be able to help make that happen.
  • A useful update from the team who’ve been looking at options to simplify sign ons for our users. I was pleased that they’ve taken the time to do thorough user research as part of evaluating the options, and also that their conclusion has emphasised the importance of simplicity for the user experience and technical set up.
  • Henry and I caught up to discuss the plans for refresh of the IT kit that our Members use. Much of their current equipment is reaching the end of its useful life and it’s important that we are giving them the tools they need to represent our residents effectively.
  • I finished my week with a visit from officers and Councillors from another London borough who wanted to find out more about the work we’re doing here at Hackney. It was good to reflect on how much has been achieved over the last few years (building on the strong foundations that were already in place) and rewarding to know that our work is having a positive impact beyond Hackney.

I’m going to be pausing the weeknotes now and will start again at the beginning of September. I’ll give some thought to whether this merits the declaration of a new season and new format…!

Something I’m reflecting on

I’ve finally finished the finance work I needed to do. It was easier than I had convinced myself it would be. I need to remember that because it’s nearly always the case…